We were reminded again this week how the smallest of sample sizes can still effect enormous change, even when Major League Baseball is cemented in analytics, even when mathematical reason suggests that one play or one game shouldn’t dramatically sway decisions. Consider how the events over the past 10 weeks played out, improbably.
On Oct. 1, the Washington Nationals were four outs away from being eliminated in the National League wild-card game. Working to protect a 3-1 lead, Milwaukee’s Josh Hader struck out two of the first three hitters he faced in the bottom of the eighth inning. But then Ryan Zimmerman singled, Anthony Rendon walked and Juan Soto pulled a hit to right field — and the ball rolled under the glove of the Brewers’ Trent Grisham. The Nationals led 4-3 — and survived.
Eight days later, the Dodgers led Washington 3-1 in the top of the eighth inning, six outs from winning the deciding Game 5 in the teams’ division series. But Rendon homered off Clayton Kershaw, Soto followed with another homer, and two innings later, Howie Kendrick blasted a grand slam. The Nationals survived, again.
In Game 7 of the World Series, Houston led 2-0, eight outs away from a title. But…